Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How the mighty have fallen

It's hard to read any of the drivel produced by a Kennedy these days without thinking about how the mighty have fallen.

Consider this bit of utter nonsense penned by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in The Atlantic, with the absurdly silly title The Case for Gay Acceptance in the Catholic Church. Um, newsflash, Ms. Townsend, but people who commit homosexual sins are just as accepted in the Catholic Church as people who commit heterosexual sins, who lie, who are lazy or unkind, who steal, who download Internet porn, or who commit vote fraud in national elections: we're just, all of us, supposed to repent of our sins and work toward giving them up entirely as we strive to take up our crosses and follow Jesus Christ in living the Gospel and working for the Kingdom. If Townsend were arguing for Catholics to present a kinder welcome to our same-sex attracted brothers and sisters and a loving, supportive environment in which they could embrace the radical chastity they are called to by Jesus Christ without facing scorn or derision for the times they failed to live up to that call, then neither I nor any Catholic would have the least problem with her essay (except for the clunky and misleading title). Alas, that's not at all what she's calling for:
On St. Patrick's Day I had the pleasure of speaking to about 350 Catholics who gathered together to attend a conference put on by New Ways Ministry, which is an effort to support the LGBT community in the Catholic Church. The women and men I spoke to included nuns and priests, children who had come out and parents who wanted to be supportive. Two female priests gave me special blessing and I left the meeting inspired by the devotion of those who attended. [...]

A few years ago, I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelations, and to me the biggest revelation was how misogynistic it was. That made me realize that the Catholic Church was on to something when it allowed only educated priests to read the Bible. My mother's generation was prohibited from reading the Bible, and when I told my grandmother that my father used to read the Bible to us, she was shocked, "Catholics don't read the Bible," she said. The Church figured that people could take passages out of context and come to unwarranted conclusions. This changed after Vatican II and now Catholic parishes offer Bible study classes. [..]

Happily, that has now changed. Women have entered schools of theology and can now show that Jesus was one of the first great feminists. Mary Magdalene is no longer thought of as a prostitute but as the "apostle to the apostles." Gays, though, are still excluded.

Progressive Christian and Jewish believers have accepted gay rights. Theologians now argue that verses in Leviticus that call for the killing of men who sleep with men apply only to a particular historical moment. The death penalty no longer applies to people who divorce, curse their parents, or sleep with women during their period -- rules that are also in Leviticus. [...]

Contrary to conservative propaganda, though, the Vatican is not immovable. It has a long history of changing position to follow new understandings of society and morality. Usury is no longer a sin. Women are no longer considered "the devil's gateway." Railroads are no longer cursed as the work of the devil, and teaching that there is such a doctrine as "freedom of conscience" does not merit censure, as it did for John Courtney Murray in the 1950s: In fact, Vatican II now recognizes "freedom of conscience." Pope John Paul II apologized for the Church's treatment of women and its persecution of Galileo. Sex between husband and a wife is no longer just for procreation but has value in itself.

Ah, yes. You see, you poor pew-sitting Catholic dolt, the Church used to teach that women were the devil's gateway, that railroads were evil, that cursing your parents or sleeping with a menstruating woman were crimes punishable by death; but now, in these enlightened days, the Church no longer teaches any of that, so she can clearly change her teaching that fornication, sodomy, masturbation (whether solo or mutual), and other homosexual sex acts are gravely morally evil, because the only reason the Church teaches any of that is to keep the gays down the way that women were once kept down by the misogynistic Bible, and to keep the macho men who fill the Church's pews every Sunday appeased in their knee-jerk homophobia.

The Kennedys: poster children for What Went Terribly, Tragically Wrong with Catholic Catechesis in the Twentieth Century.

Contrary to Ms. Townsend's singularly ignorant and uneducated rant (which is also oddly written, badly organized, and showcases her family's talent for saying a whole lot of nothing at great length), the Catholic Church has never promulgated as a matter of official Church teaching the idea that women are the devil's gateway. She has never taught that railroads and their employees are anathema, and Christ Himself fulfilled the old law such that Christians never killed people for criticizing their mothers-in-law. Usury is still a sin, though those who through no fault of their own must borrow money at interest to, say, buy a house are not the guilty parties. And the Church has never decided that any of the Ten Commandments are now optional, or that any serious sin, especially those against the Sixth Commandment, is now just fine and dandy.

But what else can we expect from a woman who thinks there are female priests and that Catholics who risk Hell to use artificial birth control are being noble messengers of the Holy Spirit instead of--well, sinners, like the rest of us? I'm not sure that Ms. Townsend knows anything at all about Church teaching, especially in the area of moral theology; certainly her misinformed and unfortunate essay reads like something a high school aged Catholic might write for Confirmation class, having been absent from the Church since his First Communion. It's really hard to overstate the sheer depth of the shallowness of this piece.

Then again, though, it's pretty obvious that Townsend didn't write it to impress her fellow Catholics, especially the ones who attend Mass regularly and actually know a thing or two about Church teaching. Essays like this one are written for one reason: to give political cover to the Democrats when they go forward with the massive national push for legalizing gay "marriage" which I am quite certain is in the works. Townsend is participating, preemptively perhaps, in the narrative of the Right Sort of Catholic, in which the Right Sort agrees with whatever the secular State wants, and the Wrong Sort follow the actual teachings of the Catholic Church. On gay "marriage," the Right Sort of Catholic will burble out streams of absurd drivel like what Townsend wrote, insisting that it's perfectly possible to be Catholic while celebrating gay "marriages" in which two people pledge to commit serious and even mortal sins for the duration of their relationship. Meanwhile, the Right Sort will label the rest of us "The Wrong Sort of Catholic" for believing what the Church teaches, for striving to live faithfully according to these teachings, for rejecting sin in our own lives and speaking against its acceptance, and for rejecting the evil lie that is gay "marriage." Because for people like Townsend, it's much more important to pay homage to the spirit of the age than the Holy Spirit, and much more important to approve of sin than to be labeled a bigot for rejecting sin.


Siarlys Jenkins said...

Although I hardly need to repeat that I do not subscribe to every tenet of Roman Catholic teaching, this is a coherent, well written critique, with the sharpest barbs premised on well-reasoned highlighting of Townsend's rambling inconsistency.

I've always thought political dynasties were a bad thing, partly because children seldom live up the attainments of really accomplished parents, particularly not in the same field, and much less do they live up to the legends that are indeed larger than life.

I do not favor either a Clinton or a Bush dynasty, nor an Obama dynasty for that matter. Some of the younger Kennedys have performed reasonably well, others not so much. Townsend ran for governor of Maryland on the platform "It's my turn, I've been waiting for this, me, me, me," and Maryland voters tolerated a Republican governor for one term to express their disappointment. She covered her right flank with a retired naval officer for lieutenant governor. Her opponent covered his left flank with Michael Steele, a certified African American who has since demonstrated his own distinct erudition and strategic genius.

A pox on all their houses. Instead of polemicizing fruitlessly against core doctrine of her church, she should post her 92 theses on the door of some Lutheran church (not Missouri or Wisconsin synod), and organize the Reformed Congregational Catholic Rite Free Church where she can take communion.

Anonymous said...

Reading her is like doing penance. God does work miracles and he does allow people to remain in ignorance. As someone who doesn't speak for the church in any capacity, it is tiring that she is given such a platform. Her teaching and idea is like old, moldy bread.

Scott W. said...

What is this "Atlantic" you speak of?

L. said...

When you say "the mighty," what exactly do you mean? Surely, you don't mean JFK and all of his mistresses, or the Chappaquidick incident, etc.
It would seem to me that many of the past generation of Kennedys suffered from the "I'm-rich-so-I-can-do-whatever-I-want-and-get-away-with-it" syndrome.